LONDON — Britain braced for a potentially deadly heat wave on Saturday, with temperatures expected to hit 40 degrees Celsius (104 Fahrenheit) for the first time early next week.
Workers were spreading sand on the roads, fearing it would melt unprotected. Schools have said they will move classes remotely. And Transport for London, the city’s public transport agency, urged people not to travel on Monday and Tuesday because train tracks could bend or warp in the heat.
The UK government’s main emergency committee, Cobra, was also planning an emergency meeting on Saturday to discuss the response to the extreme weather.
Britain’s National Weather Service issued the most severe heat warning on Friday, putting parts of England on red alert on Monday and Tuesday. It was the first time the warning had been applied to extreme heat, said Alex Deakin, a meteorologist with the service, known as the Met Office.
In a country largely devoid of air conditioning, the unprecedented warning after a spell of already hot days has left people bracing themselves amid a flurry of measures from authorities.
On Saturday, the front pages of British newspapers warned of the coming ‘meltdown’ and advised people on how to handle the scorching temperatures.
Britain’s heatwave is also part of a wider weather system that ignited parts of Europe last week and stoked wildfires in France, Portugal and Spain.
In France, wildfires have ravaged thousands of hectares in the south and southwest of the country, and more devastation is expected in the coming days due to unpredictable and changing winds.
The most serious fire occurred in the Gironde region near the city of Bordeaux, where so far more than 22,000 hectares of vegetation have burned and more than 12,000 people have been evacuated from their homes or campsites, according to local authorities, with some sleeping on beds in gymnasiums or event halls.
Météo France, the national meteorologist, forecast temperatures of 40 degrees Celsius or more on the country’s Atlantic coast from Sunday to Tuesday.
In Greece, firefighters fought more than 50 fires, the largest on the island of Crete and the Saronikos region southeast of Athens.
And Spain hit a record 114 degrees Fahrenheit on Wednesday in the southern province of Huelva. The country was also battling to put out dozens of forest fires.
“Obviously, the longer the heat wave, the greater the repercussions on the issue of forest fires, and also on people’s health,” said Rubén del Campo, spokesperson for Spanish Meteorological Agency.
Since many older homes don’t have air conditioning, some people have said they try to cool themselves in other ways.
In Herguijela de la Sierra, a village near Salamanca in the interior of Spain, Juana Cerezo said that during heat waves she would drag her mattress out to a terrace at night to cope with the heat.
“It’s too hot to sleep at my house,” she said.
In Italy, temperatures have been well above the seasonal average and are expected to peak next week at 40 degrees Celsius. On Friday afternoon, street vendors fell asleep in the shade as tourists filled their water bottles from Rome’s iconic fountains, using them to wet their hair.
“The heat is relatively normal in July in Rome,” said Stefano Augusto, 57, a flower vendor in a central square in Rome, as the temperature reached 35 degrees Celsius.
“The problem is, it’s been so hot for almost two months now,” he said. “We are already very tired.”
Climatologists have said that global warming is making extreme temperatures more common, but they study whether specific weather events are intensifying or becoming more likely due to human-induced climate warming.
“Climate change has already influenced the likelihood of extreme temperatures in the UK,” Nikos Christidis, a climate attribution scientist at the Met Office, said in a press release, adding that the likelihood of experiencing such record-breaking heat in Britain had already increased. and would continue.
The report was provided by Aurelien Breeden from Paris, Niki Kitsantonis from Athens, Gaia Pianigiani From Rome, Francheska Melendez from Madrid and Christine Hauser from London.